The Man In Black Is Back
[pullquote quote="Why all the fuss? If you ask yourself that question, time to check out Johnny's music...and the story of his life." credit="Terri Hemmert"]This Sunday would have been Johnny Cash‘s 80th birthday. Though he’s up there in heaven with his beloved June Carter Cash (certainly one of the great love stories of any generation!), we here on Earth will be celebrating his birthday.
Check out his video of “Hurt,” the brilliant cover he did of Trent Reznor‘s song. It includes footage of the abandoned Johnny Cash museum, The House Of Cash, which was a chilling image of how fleeting fame can be.
Well this Sunday, on his birthday, they will break ground for the project to preserve Johnny’s boyhood home in Dyess, Arkansas. Arkansas State University is behind this project. It’s part of a restoration of a housing project that will document how people lived during the Great Depression. And later this year they will open a new Johnny Cash museum in Nashville.
Yearbook Photos: Kurt Cobain, Johnny…There will be music as well. On April 3rd they will release a two CD set, Bootleg IV: The Sound Of Truth. It will feature gospel and spiritual songs from the ’70s and ’80s. Johnny’s gospel singing was always from the heart. There will be a box set and other releases throughout the year. No details yet. They are also going to release three new documentaries.
Why all the fuss? If you ask yourself that question, time to check out Johnny’s music…and the story of his life. You couldn’t make this stuff up. He lived a remarkable life.
At the College of Rock And Roll Knowledge, I teach my students that Johnny Cash transcended genres and made some of the best music of the century. His work with producer Rick Rubin was stunning. And that’s when Johnny was close to the end of his life. He put it all out there in an honest, stark and compelling way. So if you want to introduce yourself to his music, check out any of those American Recordings with Rubin.
Then pick up the DVD Johnny Cash: The Anthology. This is a fine collection of performances from all periods of his life, interviews with some of his peers, and a documentary called Half Mile A Day which is excellent. Any footage of his prison concerts will show you how real that man was, and how he impacted those lucky enough to see him perform. Bob Dylan looked to him as a major hero. So did Bono, Sheryl, Crow, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Clash, Jay-Z and Kanye West, Chris Martin, Keith Richards, Patti Smith, Brian Wilson and everyone else that showed up for the taping of God’s Gonna Cut You Down.
Johnny was hero material. He never forgot where he came from. He always had time to help a young musician trying to get a break. And his strong faith led him to visit those in prison, and to be present to the poor. Not everybody that reads the Bible really gets it. Johnny obviously got it, and lived it. He was the first to point out his mistakes and weaknesses. We will be the ones who appreciate his candor, and continue to be inspired by his music, his life, and his love for June.
He’s been gone for nine years. Gone but not forgotten. He’s worth rememberin’.